Dr Assad Kotaite, long-time president of the ICAO Council, often referred to ACI, ICAO and IATA as being the “three pillars of aviation” and frequently stressed that all should work together for the good of the industry.
He said that the three interacted much like the elements of a theatre play, with ACI providing the stage and infrastructure for the performance where IATA are the actors and ICAO – the director of the play – set out the boundaries and the standards for a safe, secure, efficient and sustainable air transport system.
Kotaite recognised that over the last decade airports have looked increasingly to ACI World to provide the training that would help enhance the career skills of their managers, particularly in important new areas such as applying best commercial practices, growing non-aeronautical revenues, creating long-term strategic plans and evaluating financing options.
He also realised that with international air traffic growing rapidly, airport managers ideally needed a ‘world view’ to be effective in their jobs as well as an understanding of the inter-relationships inherent in the global air transport system.
ACI knew this too, of course, and this joint understanding of the challenges ahead led to dialogue on training beginning in 2006. The aim was for greater co-operation across a broad range of subjects and this desire led to the launch of the Airport Management Professional Accreditation Programme (AMPAP) in March 2007.
The organisations agreed that successful completion of a programme of six courses, four mandatory (three online) and two elective, within three years, would earn the candidate the International Airport Professional (IAP) designation.
Some 30 months after its launch, AMPAP stands out because it is truly a joint effort, filling a valuable need for ACI members. In fact the programme’s success is such that it has enhanced the reputation of both organisations, as well as resulting in the recognition of airport management as a unique and complex profession.
To date, more than 220 participants from 50 countries have undertaken AMPAP courses. Indeed, the programme has persevered through the industry-wide downturn and plans to expand in 2010 to offer the gateway Air Transport System (ATS) course 12 times yearly, roughly doubling the size.
AMPAP programme executive, Pierre Coutu, noted: “The programme is on target with the business plan, but in some respects has exceeded expectations. For example, while candidates have three years to complete their coursework, we have already seen nearly 40 people earn their IAP accreditation, some in as short a time as one year! We didn’t envisage this happening, but it is a great advantage for ACI and ICAO to have so many IAPs so early in the programme. This not only enhances the prestige of the IAP, but it gives us a large pool of ‘ambassadors’ that will hopefully help recruit new candidates.”
Houston–Ellington Field’s airport manager and recent AMPAP graduate, Perry Miller, is a big fan of the training initiative.
“The experience you gain in working with other people across the globe in co-ordinating activities is just phenomenal,” enthuses Miller. “I have formed relationships with people all over the world where I can pick up the phone and compare experiences. No other programme can top that!”
Another measure of AMPAP’s success is the recognition of the value of its programme by the Toulouse Business School. In the university’s MBA programme, AMPAP courses are given one full course credit to students, a considerable achievement for courses based on one week of content.
AMPAP’s success is no fluke, of course, as it is the result of solid market research – ACI undertook an extensive study of airport training needs and identified a strong global market and clear preferences for courses – and other key factors that include synergies in ACI/ICAO’s areas of influence; reliance on old principles; and establishing a practical system for programme governance.
In some regions, ACI is well-known to airport operators and enjoys an excellent reputation, while in other markets, China for instance, ICAO enjoys a much higher profile. Between the two, there is truly a global reach in publicising AMPAP. While ACI has excellent access in marketing the programme to airport members, ICAO can use many other channels and recently issued a State Letter encouraging governments and civil aviation authorities to publicise and support AMPAP.
From the start, AMPAP followed ICAO’s brief to make the programme accessible, affordable and universally available. AMPAP was designed to complement ACI’s excellent slate of elective courses offered through its Global Training Hub, many of which could be folded into the programme. ICAO also had several courses that qualified as electives.
The AMPAP Steering Group, chaired by ICAO’s secretary general and ACI’s director general, is a small group, which manages the programme on a policy level with frequent meetings. Between meetings, there is a mechanism for handling day-to-day programme decisions through a team leader from each organisation.
It may be less than three years old, but AMPAP has already redefined the training manual and could prove to be a vital tool in helping airports find their CEOs of tomorrow.